Short and simple: Rick Owens inspired knit top

Rick Owens style top front

If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while you’ll have heard of frosting sewing versus cake sewing. Or for those of us in the U.K., icing versus cake. Icing is the pretty, impractical stuff we love to sew but rarely wear, and cake is practical basics. This is a cake project: a simple black long-sleeved t-shirt in wool jersey. I know I will wear this until it goes into holes.

I’ve made a couple of these before using a pattern I mashed together from an old McCalls dress pattern (no, I don’t know why this seemed like a good starting point either) and while I loved them and wore them to destruction they nevertheless had a few fitting niggles. So this time I started off with the close fitting stretch t-shirt block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and adapted from there. I was going for a combination of these two Rick Owens tops: the shaped hem of the tank with the ultra long sleeves of the t-shirt.

collage

I copied the raw hems and the feature centre back seam of the originals. My centre back seam is just overlocked wrong sides together with the four thread overlocker stitch and pressed to one side. I find it surprisingly difficult to sew that seam correctly because my brain’s so used to doing it the other way. I have to keep chanting ‘wrong sides together, wrong sides together’ to remind myself.

Rick Owens style top back

I like it a lot. It’s not totally perfect: I’m wearing it over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt in these pictures which tends to produce extra wrinkles, but even so I’ll add a touch more ease next time as I don’t think all the wrinkling is down to the extra layer. The good news is that the fabric is a reorderable one – John Kaldor Isabella wool/viscose jersey – so I can get the exact same fabric again for next time. I might also shorten it a little but I haven’t quite made my mind up about that yet. The fabric was a birthday present and it’s lovely! Warm, stretchy, great recovery. It’s also extra wide: 170cm, so I got this top out of only one metre.

Rick Owens style top side

This was such a quick project to sew.   Cutting out took about five minutes and sewing maybe an hour and a half, and that’s only because I was going very slowly and carefully because I didn’t want to risk making a mistake with the posh fabric. 

I sewed it with size 75 stretch needles. I guess you could construct something like this entirely on the overlocker, but I did the seams on the sewing machine first for accuracy. I find if I sew with a fairly long stitch length even a straight stitch has enough elasticity to use on a knit. 

Already planning another one of these in another colour…maybe in the gunmetal grey.

Rick Owens style top side hands in pockets

Stylearc Toni take two

Stylearc Toni 3/4 view

I don’t repeat patterns very often, but my first Stylearc Toni dress has been such a favourite that I made another. It isn’t a maternity style but it’s roomy enough to work over a bump without too much distortion. I’m trying to make regular patterns with plenty of room on them rather than maternity ones in the hope that they’ll still look OK after the baby arrives.

My original version was made up straight out of the packet but this time I made a few changes. The first dress is a bad length for me: it ends at the widest part of my leg which means I can’t take long strides because the dress is very narrow at the hem and it catches on my calves. That was my fault for not bothering to add any extra length to the pattern. I normally need to add 2-4 inches to dresses. This one’s supposed to end at the bottom of the calf so it probably needed four inches adding if not more. I was a bit short of fabric for the second version, so instead of lengthening it to the intended proportion I shortened it by four inches so it ends just below my knee. I’m really pleased with the way that’s come out. It’s comfortable to walk in and it’s more flattering than my previous version.

Stylearc Toni front view

The fabric is a lightweight viscose woven from Macculloch and Wallis. Right now it’s still available here. It drapes very nicely, which is good for the style, but I used very lightweight interfacing on the collar to go with the fabric and that was a mistake as it’s come out a bit too floppy. This is the same fabric I used the pink colourway of for my first Vogue 1482 dress. It is very comfortable to wear and although it’s lightweight it’s relatively easy to sew.

I lost the pocket piece from the original pattern and had to make a new one. Unfortunately I didn’t make it quite deep enough to be perfect. But any pockets are better than none. The position of the pocket is better on this version because I took out some of the length from the top half of the pattern, raising the pockets up a couple of inches.

Stylearc toni side view

Here’s the back view. Last time I said that the centre back seam could be eliminated, but I’m glad I kept it. I had trouble fitting the collar to the neckline on this version – I probably stretched the neckline out while handling – and having the seam allowed me to fix the mismatch by taking the dress in a little at the top of the centre back.

Stylearc toni back view

Clio made the great suggestion of adding a zip to the centre front seam for breast-feeding access. I increased the seam allowance on the centre front seam to half an inch (or 1.2cm; it was 1cm originally) and interfaced the seamlines to make inserting the zip easier. I also removed the seam allowance from what was originally the centre front seam of the neck facing pieces so I could use the all-machine method of applying facings to the top of the zip and neckline from Kathleen Fasanella’s centered zip tutorial.

Here’s a closeup of the zip, which also shows the collar worn down rather than up.

Stylearc Toni close up

An unexpected bonus: because the only black invisible zip I had on hand was a 24″ one I can put the dress on by stepping into it rather than pulling it over my head.

Since we took these pictures the weather in the UK has turned autumnal and I’ve been wearing this dress with leggings and my grey boiled wool kimono jacket. I’m hoping it will keep going all winter with enough layers. I can even see me making a third version of this one day; I’d like to try it in something really crisp like a cotton poplin to see what happens to those drapes.

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Mappamodello Arab-Islamic Work Dress

Arab-islamic work dress front

One of my Christmas presents was an unusual sewing pattern ‘book’ called Mappamodello. It contains patterns for very geometric styles developed by the designer Nanni Strada in the 70s. The dress above is her ‘Arab-Islamic Work Dress’. It’s the only one I’ve made up so far but I suspect there will be more in the future.

I’ve described the object as a book but once you unpack it what you actually have is two very large pieces of paper. One is the (huge) pattern sheet, and the other includes brief notes on the history of each of the styles and some photographs and technical drawings of the designs. The only thing resembling sewing instructions provided is the key on the pattern sheet. The pattern for the dress I’ve made up didn’t entirely match the photographs and diagrams, but I found the process of reconciling the differences enjoyable. Having said that I made a fairly major mistake with this one which I would have avoided if there had been a photograph or a diagram of the back view as well as the front. More on that in a moment.

The designs are all one size and entirely flat in the sense that there are no seams or darts. They work by wrapping around the body and fastening with ties. The size is adjusted by fastening the ties more or less tightly. Most of the styles are very fabric-efficient and they almost all include pockets. You can see some of the fitting ties on the Arab-Islamic work dress in the back view below. If you’re familiar with the Walkaway dress it’s a similar ‘apron’ style. I was a bit cynical about the ‘one size fits all’ claim and added a few inches of length to the pattern for insurance. It probably wasn’t needed but does give a nice deep hem.

This particular style is supposed to be wearable in two different ways, but this relies on making the back neckline identical to the front neckline so you can turn the dress around 90 degrees and stick your arms though the neckline slits, tying the top neckline slit ties over your shoulders. The original ‘sleeves’ undo at the underarm, and those pieces then wrap over your chest and back, and presumably tie at your sides. As you can see I didn’t make a slit on the back of the dress so I haven’t got anywhere to put one of my arms through when I turn the dress around. I don’t think I’ve lost too much as wearing it that way doesn’t look very comfortable in the model photo.

Arab-islamic work dress back

I think the style I have made up is one of the earliest in the series. There are several very similar dresses in the book and it’s interesting to compare the later ones with the earlier. The shape of the neckline and sleeves evolves, the ability to wear the dress in two ways is dropped, the pockets become more complicated, and some purely decorative features creep in. I suspect the later versions make slightly more practical garments! Mine shouldn’t be worn without leggings and a t-shirt underneath because of all the gaps.

The book doesn’t go into any detail about fabric choice. For one or two of the designs it mentions ‘glazed cotton’ or ‘lacquered cotton’ which sounds to me like crisp fabrics. Accordingly I made my dress up in a polycotton poplin on the grounds that it’s got a crisp hand and is cheap enough for an experiment, but I think something with a bit more drape would actually have been better. By the way you need wide fabric for this style – 150cm/60″ – which limits the choices. I couldn’t find wide poplin from any of my usual sources and ended up getting it from eBay. The dress is mostly one huge pattern piece nearly the whole width of the fabric and well over two metres long. It makes efficient use of fabric. I only had small scraps left over.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

So does this pass the wearability test? I’m not sure. These photos were taken on a bitterly cold and windy day so you are not seeing the dress or me at their best. It does feel a bit like wearing an academic gown only not as warm. Despite the book’s claim that the styles work for all seasons I think this one is only for spring and early summer days.

This all sounds rather negative but I really enjoyed the process of working out how to make the dress up. I’d like to give some of the more sophisticated versions a try, using better fabric. I think there’s a great dress in here somewhere.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

And in other news, I am in the current issue of Vogue Patterns magazine! Very flattered: thanks Vogue!

An apology to Burda 117-11-2014

Burda 117-11-2014 front

This is a project that didn’t quite work. The fabric isn’t quite right. It’s a stretch denim that is too lightweight for the style and an odd shade of black. The fit isn’t quite right either. I don’t think it’s the fault of the original pattern, which is Burda 117-11-2014, described as ‘skinny pants with insets’; more what I did to it. Sorry, Burda. Here’s the line art:

Burda 117-11-2014 line art

I liked the overall shape in the drawing but not the placement of the insets, so I decided to go for some padding and quilting at the knees instead. I traced the quilting lines from another Burda pattern, 106-03-2013. Unfortunately I did it very slightly too high up the leg and the padding I used was a bit thin: just a layer of boiled wool left over from another project, backed with cotton. As a practical feature it just about works – I was very grateful for the padding when I found myself having to kneel down on a concrete floor to reach something at work recently – but it would work a lot better if it was a few centimetres lower.

Burda 117-11-2014 close up

The sizing is off because I’ve increased in circumference this year and the last two pairs of Burda trousers I made came up much too small. Determined not to make the same mistake with these I measured myself and decided to cut a size and a half larger than normal. I did not think to measure the pattern. I may have cut too generously, or perhaps there’s more ease in the pattern than one might expect from trousers described as ‘skin-tight down to the ankle’; of course they are much too large. It’s not all bad though. It might look sunny but was extremely cold when we took these and I was able to get two layers – tights and leggings – on under them. But yeah, look at those wrinkles. Skin tight they are not. I also added less length than I usually do, because Burda trousers always seem to turn out longer than I expect. This was the ‘correct’ decision because objectively on me they are exactly the length the pattern is intended to be, but I want them to be longer! I normally wear them tucked into knee boots because they feel too short.

Burda 117-11-2014 back

Although it may sound like these are a complete failure they’re not. I made them a couple of months ago and have worn them about once a week, mostly at work. And denim trousers usually get better with age.

Burda 117-11-2014 front

Black Burda jumpsuit

Burda 107a-04-2014 front

This jumpsuit was inspired, although in the loosest possible sense, by a visit to the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A earlier this year. One of the models on display was a beautiful black evening jumpsuit with an asymmetric draped lapel detail. While I couldn’t come anywhere near reproducing the inspiration, seeing it did remind me that I’d put a slightly formal jumpsuit pattern on my to-sew list a while ago and that I had some black crepe in the stash.

burda 107-04-2014 tech drawing

So this is Burda 2014-04-111 made up in black poly crepe. In recent years Burda has taken to labelling certain pattern in the magazine as ‘masterpieces’ and this is one of them. It’s not clear whether ‘masterpiece’ is meant to mean it’s difficult to sew or takes a lot of time or both. This one certainly took forever to make, but I couldn’t describe it as my best ever sewing. On the other hand it’s my first attempt at a notched collar and it came out reasonably symmetrical, so I’m delighted with that. And I made it using only Burda’s instructions. They seem to make more sense these days, or perhaps I’ve finally tuned my brain in to the less than idiomatic translation from German. It always amuses me that they say things like ‘stitch again close to seam’ instead of simply ‘understitch’.

It’s come out a bit baggier than I expected. It’s meant to be a loose-fitting style but the version on Burda’s model looks a bit sleeker than mine. Once again I think I’ve made the legs too long which contributes to the effect. I think I took most of the length I added in the legs off again before hemming, so I can safely say this one runs long. But I hate trousers that are too short; one of the reasons I started sewing my own clothes was in order to have things where the legs and sleeves are long enough. At least there’s no danger of revealing my woolly socks. Here’s me with Mrs Burda below for comparison.

Burda 107A-04-2014 front full length

Burda 107A-04-2014 model photo

Her jumpsuit is a lot better pressed than mine. I had been wearing mine all day when the photos were were taken and I don’t think this crepe holds a crease all that well. I doubt I’ll bother pressing the creases back into the back legs after I wash it. They certainly don’t seem to have survived for the photos.

The pattern comes with two views, one of which doesn’t have the creases pressed in, so I may claim my version is View B whereas Mrs Burda is definitely wearing View A. The other differences between the views are that A has a modesty panel and closes with snaps instead of buttons. I skipped the modesty panel as it’s easier and safer to wear a tank top under this. I did use snaps though.

Burda 107A-04-2014 back

I’m not entirely sure what shoes go with this. It’s an evening style, but realistically the place I’m going to wear it is to work on days when I want to look a little smart. This means reasonably comfortable footwear is required. The wedges I’m wearing here are about the limit of what I can manage at work. If anyone has any better ideas than the wedges I’d like to hear them!

Baggy trousers – Vogue 1417 again

Vogue 1417 trousers

I bought Vogue 1417 for the caped top I blogged about a few weeks ago, but there’s also a trouser pattern in the envelope. And being in need of more trousers I thought I’d give it a go.

This pattern is not my usual style. I normally wear skinny trousers and these are more than roomy. They also have an uncomfortable resemblance to tracksuit bottoms. However they have pockets and looked like a quick sew with little or no fitting required so worth a try.

Vogue 1417 view b line art

I made these up in a polyester double knit from Tissu Fabrics. The pattern is designed for ‘moderate stretch knits’. I think these would be great in a wool double knit if I could find such a thing – polyester isn’t the warmest thing to wear in the winter. I’m unconvinced by the pattern envelope suggestion of cotton knit. In my experience 100% cotton knit goes baggy as soon as you look at it. Maybe one with some lycra in would work.

The pattern runs enormously large. With a Vogue pattern I normally go down one size from what the size chart tells me to make. For this one I went down two sizes after checking the flat pattern measurements, and they still sit a little below where they should on the waist. Good length though. I added my usual two inches to the length. They look a bit long here because I’m wearing them over boots rather than heels, but they’ve come up similar in length to the ones in the pattern photo.

I think the most interesting feature of these is the very deep front pleats. All of that fancy back seaming might as well not be there if you make them in black. I can’t see it at all in the pictures, nor do I notice it when putting them on or washing them.

Vogue 1417 back view

I love the pockets. The pocket bag is made of lining fabric to reduce bulk. They are nice and deep, and constructed in a clever way that reinforces the opening edge and gives a very clean finish inside.

Vogue 1417 side view

These have been getting a lot of wear since I made them. They come out at least once a week because they’re comfortable and practical. However I still wonder if they’re too casual for work. (This is ‘too casual’ purely in my own eyes. There is no dress code whatsoever.) So this is a strange pattern that I’m wearing to death but I doubt I’ll make again. At least not unless I find some wool doubleknit.

Truth, justice, and Vogue 1417

This is the top from Vogue 1417. This style is all about the cape. There’s an interesting knit top pattern under there with an asymmetric hem and unusual seaming, but you’d never know!

Vogue 1417 front view

Here’s the line art. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the seaming. The side seams are on a diagonal so the back piece is much narrower at the bottom than the top. The picture gives an idea of the size of the cape though. The pattern piece is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

V1417-2

This was a lot of fun to sew. It’s not terribly difficult or time-consuming but there’s slightly more to it than making a t-shirt. I thought the pattern instructions were unusually good. I followed them almost exactly for once; the only change I made was to add a bit more interfacing around the zip which made it a lot easier to insert. I made this entirely on my regular sewing machine with a narrow zig-zag stitch despite having the overlocker ready to hand. You need a twin needle for the hems but that’s about it for special equipment.

I made it from a viscose-lycra knit from Tissu Fabrics. At the time of writing it’s still available here. This is a lovely fabric. It’s medium-weight and fairly stretchy. It presses very well which was a great help in hemming. The only downside is that there’s a definite wrong side to it which is slightly shinier than the right side.

Vogue 1417 right side

Although it was fun to sew it’s rather a nuisance to wear. The cape tends to get in the way and I find myself pushing it back all the time. That could probably have been predicted from the pattern photo, but I liked the design enough to give it a try. And I’m glad I did because without the cape I think this would make a great top. I’d probably go up a size if making the shell on its own. There are no finished pattern measurements on the tissue and I didn’t take any notes, but it’s very close-fitting.

Vogue 1417 left side

One more picture, because the back view is rather the point of this garment.

Vogue 1417 back view

Despite having complained about the impracticality of this design I’ve actually worn it a few times. It’s no good at all for work but nice for cooler weekends where the cape adds a bit of warmth. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a favourite garment, but I’ll definitely revisit the pattern in future.